Based on the five-time Oscar nominated film by the same name made nearly 20 years ago, Amelie the musical has a more robust heroine performed with magnetic precision and wit by Audrey Brisson. With a little less whimsy all round, but retaining a light philosophical touch, this heroine has a psychological back-story to explain her reticence and the quirkiness has become sillier, which is definitely a good thing.

Born to a neurotic mother and an iceberg of a father, Amelie Poulin, who is home-schooled on account of her pounding heart, has only a fish in a bowl for company. And then he jumps out. After her mother dies in a bizarre accident Amelie heads into Paris, leaving her father looking after her mother’s ashes in a garden gnome and takes a job in a café. Despite her vivid inner life, nothing changes for years as she scuttles quietly between life with the café regulars and her tiny garret room. That is until Princess Diana’s sudden death in Paris, not so far from Amelie which triggers a fantasy that she is the Godmother of the unloved. Suddenly Amelie believes that she has a power to see what each stranger has lost or locked inside, and she sets out to help them. But this is really a romance, and when a chance for love comes her way, Amelie is terrified of reaching out to grasp it.

Madeleine Girling’s set is delightful with a flying lampshade that quietly pulls Amelie up from the bustling bistro to her tiny room. The show is through scored with 11 energetic actor-musicians who play all the characters in Amelie’s story. They thread their way around the stage playing accordions, cellos (hung around the neck), flute, violin, guitar, pianos to create a warm thrum that only very occasionally stops for significant moments of suspense. Stand out performances come from Jez Unwin as Amelie’s emotionally locked in father and a comedy turn from Caolan McCarthy as Elton John with a hilarious spin off of ‘Candle in the Wind.’ Ultimately it is Audrey Brisson’s performance as Amelie that carries the show. In her french bob and bright red lipstick she is at once nieve girl and wise women. Her vocal and physical control is mesmerising and whilst the world spins around, there is a stillness to her performance that is hard to resist.

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